Minimalism vs. Convenience

minimalism vs convenience

Minimalism can help you make your life easier because practicing minimalism, in whatever capacity, helps to simplify your life. But there is a distinct difference between making your life easier with modern conveniences and actually simplifying your daily routine, schedule, space and finances.

The difference between making things easy and making things simple is usually just less stuff. This is often the difference between convenience and a practice of minimalism.

More stuff can sometimes make things seem convenient, but it actually complicates and clutters your life.

We could spend days coming up with examples of this in different capacities, but I wanted to share with you 5 ways I have found that minimalism trumps convenience in my own life.

1- French press over Keurig

My morning routine always involves coffee. The first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the stove to heat the kettle, which I always fill with enough water the night before. I used to have a Keurig, which was given to me by my grandparents, who upgraded to a larger one, and I totally thought this would be simpler and more “minimal”. Wrong.

While it was super easy to load the pod in and pour a mug of water into the machine, owning a Keurig meant that I had to also buy those little coffee and drink pods, or at least own a reusable one. Then, if I used the individual pods, I had to find a place to store them. I also found that I used way more coffee pods in a day than seemed necessary, since it only made one cup at a time. Also, the amount of waste that created, or work it created to keep cleaning out the reusable one, was tedious and obnoxious. What I thought would make my morning more convenient actually cluttered my time and space with more stuff–stuff to own and stuff to do.

I quickly went back to my French press. It sits on my piano (yes, we have a piano in our kitchen), and it doesn’t need to be plugged in. I usually fill it will coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is pour the hot water in, and sometimes I’ll empty it into an insulated carafe to keep it warm for when my husband wakes up. It makes enough coffee for both of us in the mornings, and it creates zero waste, since we don’t use filters and compost the grounds.

Simple. Easy. Efficient. But oddly, few would call a French press a “modern convenience”.

2- Cloth diapers over disposable

So, I am well aware that not everyone who reads this will identify with this one, as not all of you have kiddos, but since this is my personal practice of minimalism, I have to share this way that minimalism beats out convenience in my life. I started cloth diapers when my daughter was 3 months (the first three months I was just trying to figure out my life and try to get some sleep). By then, I felt like I could handle throwing in a new laundry routine into my schedule.

While using disposable diapers is definitely much easier than washing cloth ones, I still think that choosing cloth simplifies my life. I don’t have to buy disposable diapers. Ever. I also don’t have to worry about the size changes either, since I own cloth diapers that adjust to smaller and larger sizes with handy little snaps. I have less waste as well, since we just flush the “stinkies” (as my daughter calls them) down the toilet with the diaper sprayer, and throw the cloth diaper and insert in the diaper pail to be washed.

My laundry routine for diapers is simple, and by now I’m used to it. While washing diapers would hardly be considered “convenient”, I believe it ultimately simplifies my life and helps me embrace minimalism as well as sustainability.

3- Limiting “Monthly Subscriptions”

A few years ago it became very popular to start subscribing to monthly subscription boxes that mailed you all kinds of things you might need or want. These seem to be becoming increasingly popular, and I totally understand why. It’s so easy to sign up, and then all you have to do it wait for the packages to arrive. No going to the store, no searching the aisles, no waiting in check out lines. Many of these subscriptions also make great gifts!

Some of the subscriptions our family has been a part of have included: Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix (get $25 off your first fix), Madison Reed hair color (get $15 off your first order), Amazon Subscribe and Save, Imperfect Produce (get $10 off your first box), FabAthletics, Ipsy, as well as other non-physical subscriptions like Hulu, ESPN plus, Prime Music, Spotify, and Netflix. (Not all at the same time, mind you!)

After evaluating the quality of the items I was purchasing via these monthly subscriptions, as well as the drainage they placed on our bank account, I decided to limit our monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions so that we get quality “stuff” for better prices.

While it’s convenient to get perfectly styled and fitted clothes delivered to my door, I would rather go out in search for the items I really need, even if it takes me longer and is therefore less convenient.

However, I have found it to be worthwhile to have certain cleaning products and non perishable foods that we use consistently delivered to my door each month.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the less monthly subscriptions I get, the less stuff I own. That always helps on a minimalist’s journey. So even thought it’s “easy” or “convenient” to have things delivered right to me, it’s not always going to simplify life.

4- Secondhand Clothes Only

This one probably exists more so because I’m interested in being sustainable than interested in minimalism. Just read my 10 Hanger Project posts and you will understand the lengths I’ve been to in order to curb my addiction to clothes.

It’s far easier to head to Target or Kohl’s or Anthropologie and purchase new clothing in the style and color pallet I like than it is to hunt for possible gems in my size at thrift stores, consignment shops, or even search online via eBay, ThredUP (get $10 off your purchase), or Posh Mark. However, I personally am tempted to buy less if I decide to only shop for clothing secondhand. If I want something bad enough, I’ll take the time to hunt it down, and I’ll spend less money on it since it’s slightly used.

This simplifies my wardrobe, budget, and time, since I only own a few items of clothing to choose from when get dressed each morning.

While it may be “convenient” to order a dress from Land’s End, or new yoga pants from Lululemon, it’s way more likely that I will end up owning more than I need this way, which doesn’t help me in my practice of minimalism. Buying exclusively secondhand also helps me create less waste in general, and allows me to support local businesses–added bonuses if you ask me.

5- Giving up the gym membership

I used to work at a gym. Actually, I’ve worked at three different gyms in the past few years. I love fitness and working out. So why would I give up a gym membership?

Well, this certainly will not be the case for many people, but for me, owning a gym membership was complicating my life unnecessarily. During this particular season of my life, I don’t have hours to spend at the gym. I have a small child who would need a babysitter, which I would have to arrange for, and I would also have to plan out my schedule around gym hours, or fitness classes, or open lap swim– something that’s hard to do when my life revolves around nap time, dinner prep, and a one-year-old’s intricate bedtime routine. Also, up until just a few months ago, my husband and I shared only one car, which also made it hard to plan for trips to the gym.

On top of the scheduling issues, a gym membership costs money, and so does finding a babysitter.

I have found that giving up the gym membership helped to simplify my budget and schedule tremendously. I still workout almost everyday, but I do so at home or out with my little one.

My workouts are usually pretty simple–running with a jogger stroller at the park, doing an Insanity Max 30 video during nap time, or practicing my favorite yoga poses before my family wakes up on Sunday mornings.

While it used to be convenient to head to a gym that had literally every piece of workout equipment I could want, or to drop into a yoga class on a Saturday morning, my time and budget is limited these days, and so too have my workout options become.

Rather than see this as an annoyance or something that complicates life, I am grateful for the reminder that all I really need to stay healthy is the desire to do so. I can easily stay fit by moving my body and using my own body weight. No special equipment, studio, or even attire is required. Simple and minimal.

Easy vs. Simple

I am all about making life simple and easy with less clutter and more time and space for the stuff that really truly matters. However, it can be very easy to confuse convenience with minimalism in the pursuit to be “more free”.

For me, “more free” doesn’t include the modern convenience of a coffee maker or Keurig, even if I do have to boil my own water for coffee. I does include a pretty intricate laundry routine for my baby’s diapers, even if that might seem like the opposite of simple. It doesn’t include a ton of monthly deliveries, even though not having to shop at stores sounds way more convenient. It does include hunting down necessary clothing at consignment stores as opposed to simply finding my size and color at a retailer. It doesn’t include an easy-to-swipe gym card or fitness classes already scheduled in my day.

These “rejects” might be what make your practice of minimalism easier to embrace. That’s okay. I share my experiences simply to inspire others to evaluate those “conveniences” in life that might actually be complications.

Because minimalism and convenience is not the same thing.

What are your 5 ways minimalism (or simplicity of any kind) trumps convenience in your life? Tell me please, I’d love to know!

(Please note: this post contains referral links but was not written for the purpose of using them. They are there incase you are interested; feel free to ignore them completely.)

Advertisements

A Minimalist’s Wish List

Wish List

A minimalist having a wish list seems like an oxymoron. If the idea of minimalism is to own less, then why have a laundry list of more “stuff” you want?

I get that. I really do.

But hear me out, even though I’m just a “wannabe” minimalist.

Having a wish list helps you be a minimalist in a few different ways:

1- It saves you from impulse buys.

I recently went to a consignment store with a friend. We were looking for very specific things: she was looking for a leather shoulder bag and I was looking for cloth napkins. Looking for extremely specific items can be a total hit or miss when it comes to resale shops, and as expected, we ended up walking out of the store with nothing. However, I doubt it would have been that way if we hadn’t had very specific purchases in our heads. In my browsing, I found a number of blouses that I would have loved to try on, and my friend noticed two extremely cute dresses in her size. This often happens to the average person at the grocery store: if you don’t come there with a list, you’re likely to leave the store with more than you planned on getting. This also puts a stress on your budget! Having a wish list, or just a single item you are in search of, can help you when you feel the urge to purchase something on impulse–just because it’s there and looks like something you’d love. Since there is a list of things you KNOW you’d love, you aren’t as likely to stray from that list for impulsive decisions you may later regret and may add up to break the bank.

2- It allows you to really think about what it is you want, and gives you time to decide if it’s worth it.

I noticed this the most when I created a baby registry for my first child. I started the registry very early, not because I was eager to pick out things that I wanted, but because I wanted to spend a lot of time deciding upon the essential and best things I knew I could use and enjoy. I ended up changing that list so many times because I had time to sit with it, research, and reevaluate every item I placed on that registry. In the end, I don’t think I had any items from the registry that went unused. If I hadn’t spent as much time with it, I think I would have registered for a ton of things I didn’t really need, which is not the point of minimalism at all. When you create a wish list of any kind, you get to spend time really evaluating what it is you want, what you really need, and what would be useful to you.

3- It allows you time to decide if this particular item is even in your budget, and if it’s not, it gives you a goal to save towards.

If you aren’t registering for something or creating a birthday wish list of some kind, then a wish list ends up being a list of things you plan to buy yourself. If you plan to purchase something at all, among other things, you need to factor in how much it will cost you and if you can afford it. For the majority of us, if we don’t ever evaluate these things, we end up in serious financial strain or credit card debt. Having a wish list helps you decide if these items you want are even in your budget, and it gives you time to price compare as well. If something ends up not being in the budget, it can remain on the list until you save enough money for it. If you have to save for it, it also helps you evaluate if this is something worth all the time and effort in saving in the first place. If it’s not, then you probably don’t need it and it can come off the list.

4- It gives others ideas for useful, meaningful gifts to give that would not simply add to the accumulation of “stuff” in your life.

If you have a wish list already carefully made, then you can easily help others give you thoughtful and meaningful gifts. I know that minimalists can be hard to buy for since the accumulation of “things” is something we try to avoid. However, when someone asks you what you would like for your birthday or Christmas, having a wish list will allow you to clue them in on things you actually need. Of course, you don’t ever need to share your wish list with anyone, but at least it gives you an option to give friends and family a little guidance. Instead of getting the usual Bath and Body Works lotion and yet another cute coffee mug, they can get you those reusable cotton produce bags that you will use and appreciate the heck out of (or whatever is on YOUR wish list!).

There are a number of ways one can keep a wish list. Here are my top four ways:

1- Amazon Wish List: it’s so simple. Just go to Amazon and create one. You can also create private lists for other items so you can save gift ideas for others, or create a list of things to price compare. I currently have a personal gift wish list, a list of items my daughter will need soon, a list of gift ideas for my hubby, and a shopping list of things I will need to save for.

2- Written out on paper or in a bullet journal: way too simple and arguably the most minimalist. However, it’s not as easily shareable or editable. I used to have two in my bullet journal–one for my wishes and one for gift ideas for other people. I’d also have a column for locations to purchase and the price I found the items for.

3-An Etsy list: the only drawback to this one is that it’s limited to Etsy items, much like the Amazon lists, but you can find way more items on Amazon. This is good for vintage wishes or handmade items you would want made for yourself or others. You can also make different lists for different things. For instance, I have one for gift ideas for myself, but also one for gifts for others that I plan or buy or will consider buying. I also have a board for my daughter, because who doesn’t love handmade baby girl clothes?

4- WishList.com: here you can add anything from any website. I don’t have one myself, but my sister-in-law uses this to clue her Secret Santa in each year when we use Elfster to exchange gifts with my husband’s family. It reminded me of my baby registry (babylist.com) where I also could add anything from any website and categorize it all. If you aren’t a pen and paper person, this is probably the most appealing to a minimalist because you can have everything in one location that is easily managed and shared. You can put things from Amazon or from Etsy and it’s all on one place; you don’t need to have multiple lists going on different websites.

Before you get started making your “minimalist wish list”, a word of caution: remember your own personal reasons for a minimalist lifestyle. I don’t know what those reasons are, but I’m assuming they help you to get rid of the access stuff in your life, rather than aid in adding to it. If your wish lists ever start to make you crave a more materialistic lifestyle or clutter your life with more stuff, then they aren’t working for your pursuit of minimalism and, ultimately, freedom.

How about you? Do you have a wish list? How do you decide what goes on it, and of course, I’d love to hear what types of things are on it! Leave a comment below!

$70 Per week Grocery Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

The month of June is coming to a close, and I have successfully completed my minimalist money challenge to only spend $70 on groceries each week.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- Grocery shopping every week is HARD. 

Up until this week, my husband and I only had one car to share between the two of us. His work schedule is different almost every day, and so planning times to go grocery shopping every single week was pretty difficult. It was also tough brining my daughter with, since I had to be very meticulous in calculating the prices and sticking to a list. It was hard to be so distracted while shopping, and I know the trips weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

I think that sticking to a budget is doable, but I might have to go grocery shopping for two week stints at a time. This way, I’m not having to drag my baby to the store each week, and I can save myself some stress in the meantime.

2- While I’m not a coupon-clipper, shopping the sales is totally worth it.

I usually wouldn’t pay attention to sales at all. I’d just stick to my list or throw whatever looked good in the cart, regardless of the price. But I found that shopping the sales at Aldi was very helpful in allowing me to stick to my budget. It also made me try some things I normally wouldn’t try, and that leads me to my next point…

3- I can form my meal plans around what I can afford, rather than try to afford all I want to meal plan.

I would go to the store with a rough list that was roughly priced out, but if I saw sale items, I would alter my list. In doing this, my meal plans would usually get bungled. But this month I learned that I can create my meal plans around what I can afford within the budget, instead of just buying things I want to make, which may or may not be the best price at the time. This made me go a little out of my comfort zone and try some new recipes and combinations of foods. I think I’ll probably stick to this method of meal planning because it’s helpful to the wallet, and it’s not too much trouble for me to do. It also limits my options so I don’t get too carried away planning out crazy-intricate meals that are probably unrealistic to make anyway.

4- Rationing snacks is very helpful in preserving their “life” for  the week.

I came up with a system to ration snack items so that they lasted more than one week. This way, I wasn’t always having to buy Lara bars, cashews, and veggie straws at every single trip to the store. I packaged the dried fruit and bars so that only what we could eat for the week was set out in the pantry, and I did the same with the chips and crackers and other items that usually go fast. Then I hid the rest in a basket up high on the shelf that was clearly off limits. This way, nothing got devoured in too short a time.

I actually started doing this before this month-long challenge, but I found it to be very helpful for June as well. Some things were still weekly purchases (like OJ and spinach), but this helped me save money and helped get our snacking a little more under control. I’ll be keeping this up for sure.

Here are some pictures of the great deals I found at Hope for Joliet (read more here):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here are some of my family’s favorite meals I made this month:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

And there you have it folks! That’s what I learned on my month of strict grocery budgeting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure and have been challenged to save some pennies while you shop for your family’s food.

 

June Minimalist Money Challenge: The first 2 weeks

It’s been two weeks of grocery shopping with a $70 per week limit. If you’re new to my version of this challenge, check out my last post for a quick overview.

My first grocery shopping trip totaled to $69.98. I cut it that close. I am not kidding.

IMG_0621

Reusable grocery bags are a must for trips to Aldi. And no, that blue bottle of window wiper fluid was not included in our trip…

It was a bit longer of a trip than I usually like to take with my 15 month-old daughter, as I had to write down the prices, add up the total, calculate sales tax, and put some items back so as to keep within our budget. But we left the store with four cloth bags full to the brim, and one giant watermelon that was on sale. And Esther still had some of her veggie straws left to munch on during the drive home. I’d say it was a success.

 

You can sort of see some of the sales on the meat are marked (those red stickers in the first photo say “$1 off” or “$2 off”). Watermelon, blueberries, spinach, and asparagus were also on sale.

While I didn’t document my second week of groceries, I did only spend $68.40, and was pretty pleased with how many leftover items we still could use from the first week.

I’ll be sure to snap some photos this week, but some of the meals we made these past 2 weeks were as follows:

For Breakfast: Veggie frittata, peanut butter apple oatmeal, eggs over baked potato and leftover roasted veggies, toast with peanut butter and banana, hard boiled eggs with avacados.

For Lunch: Salami spinach tomato wraps with watermelon, mango chicken panini’s with carrot sticks, ramen noodles with peas, carrots, green beans, and corn, leftover pulled pork on top of sweet potatoes and veggies, apple and swiss curry panini’s.

For Dinner: Blueberry waffles, bacon, and over-easy eggs (yes, breakfast for dinner is amazing), bacon wrapped steaks on the grill with roasted asparagus and macaroni, homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, pulled pork with potato wedges and steamed broccoli, brats with potato wedges and roasted veggies, shepherd’s pie with watermelon, ground turkey tacos with avocado, salsa, black beans, and roasted onions and peppers.

You guys. These are pretty amazing meals right here! I could really get used to this. So far I’m finding that shopping with this type of budget just takes a little more effort, planning, and flexibility in meals.

I’ll share more of the benefits and drawbacks when I can look back on the entire month, but so far so good!

Tomorrow I’m headed with my daughter and best friend to Hope for Joliet, a location where food items that are almost past the sell-by date are sold for a fraction of the price, and ripe produce is literally GIVEN away. I have no idea what things will be there, so I’ll have to be pretty flexible in what I plan for this next week’s meals. But I do still have leftover frozen chicken, ground beef, some cauliflower, and a bunch of other things I can use as a base for a few meals.

Next week I am also cooking for 10 college students, so my shopping may include extra so as to feed those hungry mouths (I will be reimbursed for this, so it will not be included in the $70 budget). I am also going to make a meal for my friend who just had a baby! This will be included in the $70 budget.

I’m excited to do more documenting of meals and of our shopping excursion tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Let It Be Enough: the prayer of a minimalist

adult air beautiful beauty

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

A few years ago, I started the practice of a breath prayer, very similar to the contemplative practice of centering prayer, if you are familiar.

It includes a name for God that is especially meaningful to me at a specific time, and then a very simple request for something that I can only receive from Him.

Some of my most common breath prayers over the years have been ones like these (so you get an idea of what I’m talking about):

“Prince of Peace, comfort me.”

“Lord of Hosts, be my defender.”

“God of the universe, keep me present.”

“God who sees me, remind me I am loved.”

In my minimalist journey, the simplicity of these prayers has been essential. They focus me throughout the day and allow me to connect with God without having to have this intricate, hour-and-a-half-long “quiet time”. They also have helped me get through those early stages of having a newborn who nurses every hour. I remember being up at 3am with Esther, and praying a breath prayer over and over as I nursed and bounced her back to sleep. I couldn’t think of much else to do or say, but having a simple heart-felt prayer truly centered me during those hard moments of exhaustion.

And now, I find myself reflecting on these prayers as part of my journey towards minimalism. See, I’ve recently gotten into another kick of purging things. It’s been so good to simplify again. And being able to get rid of the access clutter in my life has helped me address some other areas of cluttered baggage, worry, and stress that I don’t really need.

I feel myself reawakening as I continue to let go of physical things. It’s almost like…since I can let go of these material possessions, then I can more easily let go of the other heavy burdens.

I can let go of the expectation for my parents to give me only what God can give me. I can let their best efforts and their love be enough.

I can also let go of the expectation for my husband to give me only what God can give me. I can let his love, leadership, and overall character be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for myself to be perfect as only God is. I can let my personality, my capabilities–really, myself be enough.

I can let go of the expectation for this life I’m living to be picture perfect and neat, or exciting and adventurous 24/7. I can embrace the chaos or the monotony or the less-than ideal circumstances, and let this beautiful life that God has given me be enough.

And I see now that God has given me another centering prayer to say in one breath– another breath prayer: “Be Enough.”

Or perhaps, “Let it (him/her/me/them) be enough”.

It is not a command to be good, kind, cool, pretty, sexy, pure, clean, happy, or whatever else enough. It is an invitation to let each moment, each person, each item in my home, each piece of food I consume, each word I say, each action, and each situation God brings me— to let all of it be enough.

That is contentment.

And in my quest for minimalism, I realize that it is not about creating a certain aesthetic or getting rid of things just for the sake of being less cluttered. It is a quest for contentment with what I have, and actually requiring less to be content in the first place.

To allow my possessions to be enough.

To allow a simple schedule to be enough.

To be content enough not to “buy” into the message that I am what I have.

The truth is, I am enough. I can, through Christ, be enough.

Today, like all days, I need to breathe this prayer in and out each moment.

Let my milk supply be enough. Let the babysitter’s care for Essie be enough. Let the sleep I end up getting be enough. Let the training for the 10K I get done be enough. Let the snacks I bring to MOPS be enough. Let the time Esther takes to walk be enough. Let the money my husband makes be enough. Let the groceries I purchased this week be enough. Let my attempts to fill our CRU table be enough…. 

All of these are enough ultimately because only you, Jesus, are enough.

You hold all things together. You make all things enough.

What Minimalism Isn’t (to me)

It’s been about a year now since I began my minimalist journey– or rather, my wannabe-minimalist journey. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, mostly clothes, and I’ve reworked a lot of my schedule to reflect a more simplified … Continue reading

“So what do you do?”: on work, Millennials, and identity

design desk display eyewear

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

It’s been well over a year now. I haven’t been a CPS teacher since June of 2015. It seems almost impossible, when I think of that young idealistic teacher setting her sights on her newly decorated classroom, nervously awaiting the first wave of Freshman to enter in and take their seats.

That girl was going to change the world. Despite all odds, she was going to stick with it and be strong. This was what she was made to do.

… Okay, so maybe I never really felt like that. But that’s what you think you feel when you’re a newly graduated education major about to become educator. You just assume that stereo-typical, overly-idealistic, “Freedom-Writers“-esque attitude that may or may not be around at the end of the first semester. You just do. Because, if you don’t, it is way too easy to admit that you’re discouraged already and are hoping and praying no one notices that you have no idea what you’re doing. And also because, every other young new-hire in urban education acts like they feel this way, so, I mean, what real choice do you have? So you convince yourself that you are going to change the world, one student at a time, and you put on your game face and you assume this attitude as who you are.

What a mistake I made in doing this. 

Because three years later, when I find myself utterly hating my job and myself, and feeling completely ineffective and drained, I decide it’s time for teaching and me to part ways. Yes, it’s only been three years. But I’ve been in romantic relationships for less time than that before I realized it wasn’t meant to be either. So, there.

But now that I am no longer Hilary Swank, the dedicated teacher who is willing to give up her entire personal life in order to reach the “unteachable”, who am I? And why did I place my identity in such a fragile place as a 22-year-old hoping for the best in a toxic work environment with little to no resources or support?

I don’t think I am alone in this. I hope not. Because then this blog post is solely for my own benefit, which I guess is fine…

The Millennial generation, of which I am a part of, often gets a bad rap for being socially inept, obscenely selfish, and unable to hold down a job for more than a few years, much less have a successful longstanding career. Now, believe me, I could write an entire blog post on why I think this reputation has come about, and my response to it, but I’ll save that for another time.

I will say though, that after being laid off every single year I worked as a public school teacher, I was only able to successfully be rehired each time (sometimes the only rehire in the entire school), by working long hours, volunteering to lead professional development, obtaining outstanding evaluations, and sufficiently increasing my student’s test scores. I was able to successfully make myself invaluable to my Principal and co-workers, and I hardly think I could have been rehired each year without some level of social skills, strong work ethic, and an inexhaustible desire to keep my position. Just sayin’.

But the reason I mention the whole Millennial thing is because I think this reputation (specifically about the job/career piece) stems more from the changing times than from a character flaw spreading across the entire generation–which oddly includes 19-year-olds all the way to 39-year-olds.

According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today will stay at one job for an average of only 4.4 years. And according to a recent survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers, 91% of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for even less than that: three years. This means that most men and women of this age group will have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their entire working lives. But this is due more to things like an unstable economy and technology replacing workers than to an entire generation of fickle people who can’t make up their mind about what they want to do with their lives… which is sort of how I feel, but which I don’t think is the norm.

This intrigues me for a number of reasons:

  • 1.) I have found that many people’s response to my 3-year “career” as a teacher is mixed. Upon examination of the different reactions, many people within my generational age group (20-something Millennials), seem to totally get it, while the majority of retired people (of the Baby Boomer generation) seem to view my short-lived career as puzzling, even if they act extremely polite about it all.
  • 2.) I have always been told that job instability on a resume could cost one a future job. From what I understand, “chronic job-hoppers” are often screened out, and recruiters instead seek prospective employees who seem to offer longevity.
  • 3.) From my limited experience, and from a bit of research, the average person gains a sense of identity from their work. The question we almost always ask a new acquaintance at a party is “so what do you do?”, meaning not “what hobbies do you have that make you happy?”, or”what do you like to do for fun?”, or even “what is your mission in life?”. No, this question invariably means “what is your job?”, which places a lot of importance on what we choose to do to make a living, rather than how we choose to live. I find this interesting coming from a generation that will ultimately answer this question of “what do you do?”, 15-20 different ways throughout their working life.

Okay so, that’s the end of the statistics and research part of this post. Back to the point.

I have been mulling over this whole  “identity thing” for a while now– really, ever since I quit my job last year. What are the elements that go into shaping who we are, and how is who we are perceived differently by different people, and do those different perceptions impact our identity?

As a Christian, I often remind myself that my identity is in Christ. However, I believe that God made each of His children to have unique characteristics and purpose, despite our commonality of contentment with our lives through His will. I know that I personally have discovered more of my true identity as I draw nearer to God, which I have done quite a lot since last year. So, although I know that my mission is the same as other Christ-followers in helping to bring God’s Kingdom here on earth, I know that God has equipped me to do this in a way that is true to my identity, and which will not be the same as every other Christian.

As a Millennial who has accepted the fact that job-hopping is probably unavoidably in my future, I am seeking ways to define myself verbally to others so that more of myself is revealed rather than simply what my job happens to be at that particular time. I know I am viewed differently now that I do no answer the question “so, what do you do?” with “I’m a High School teacher in the inner city”, although I do not think the core of who I truly am has changed much at all. How one makes money at a particular season in life, is not always an accurate reflection on who they are.

All this is rather complicated. And I find that it is made further complex by this new season in life that I now find myself approaching currently.

You see, I found out in June that I am pregnant. And since then I have had this vacillating sense of what this means about my identity, as if the other stuff wasn’t enough to think about.

Don’t get me wrong! I am extremely happy and utterly ecstatic about this news! The baby was planned, and my husband and I are over-the-moon-excited. This is what we want. And yet, it’s difficult to imagine, or rather, realize, that my identity is now shifting due to another living being occupying my body. Already, this little creature is impacting who I am–what I eat, what I (don’t) drink, how often I eat, sleep, and pee, and what limitations my body has, even down to what positions I can comfortably sleep! These things are also not who I am, but I’m sure they effect other’s perception of me, and I know I personally am starting to see myself differently: as not simply a woman or even a wife, but as a mother.

Side note: this is totally the first time we will be sharing this news publicly online (for those that actually read this far), so please forgive the lack of cute announcement photos or “bump pics”– that’s just not our thing.

Upon reflection of the loss of my “career” as a teacher, the realization that my elder Baby Boomer friends and relatives  probably won’t fully understand the generation I was born into, and this growing child inside me, slowly becoming more and more a reality that impacts the way I do life, I guess the question I am really wrestling with is this: how do I apply a minimalist ideology to my ever-shifting and complex identity?

We live in a world where who we are is presented in so many public ways. To some extent, we can even control the public perception of ourselves by way of facebook, linkedin, “about me” sections in blogs, and other social media outlets. And sometimes these things do truly reflect our true selves. But I believe it also over-simplifies our identity. Which makes me wonder if having a minimalist approach to defining my identity is even realistic or possible.

Perhaps this continuous exploring, changing, and figuring out of one’s identity is simply a part of our work as people living in a complex and changing world. Perhaps finding our calling is more about finding the common thread in our motivation for life rather than what our work entails in the moment–public school teacher, fitness instructor, or stay-at-home-mom. Perhaps it’s less about saying nice phrases like, “my identity is in Jesus” and more about figuring out how God made us, so we can understand what that truly looks like in real life.

So when someone asks me that question, “so, what do you do?”, I think I’ll respond with something, well, not so minimal. Something like,

What do I do? I wake up every morning praying that I can figure out who I am so that I can live the way I will be most successful at bringing knowledge of Jesus Christ into people’s hearts. I try to eat healthy so that my baby can grow strong and develop good eyesight and a taste for a variety of foods, while at the same time, making sure I don’t throw up at Praise Dance rehearsal. I blog, but not as often as I would like, because I’m trying to balance sleeping 8-9 hours a day and helping my husband with his career, which often means hardcore napping, but also filming random auditions or promo videos at moment’s notice, or faxing in music contracts or mailing out posters in time for upcoming shows. I thought I was going to be a teacher for my whole life, but now I’m content with teaching fitness classes and preparing to be a stay-at-home mom in the not-so-distant future, and maybe homeschooling our kids–who knows!? I hang out at Starbucks and work on my book, I make color-coded lists and meal plans in my passion planner, I do my BSF lesson every morning, I go to MOPS on Tuesday mornings, and recently I started swimming laps since I can’t run while I’m pregnant. I do a lot of stuff, actually, and hopefully some of those things will give you an idea about who I am. But mostly, I just hope that you can be courageous enough to know that your identity is not always defined by what you do, especially what you do for a living, because it’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, and I’m still shedding so much of who I thought I was in order to see who I truly am. 

But…that’s not really my initial idea of a “minimalist answer”. However, I do think it’s probably more genuine in reflecting my thoughts and feelings towards the question. And who knows? Maybe it will let people know what I actually do.

That was the question in the first place, right?

5 Ways to be a Minimalist on your Smartphone

 

white smartphone beside silver laptop computer

Photo by Studio 7042 on Pexels.com

Today’s technology is incredible. We can communicate so easily and share ideas, photos, videos, and art with countless people via the internet, social media, or even just email or text messaging. That said, our smartphones can be powerful tools in the business world and as an artistic outlet.

Since my job change last year, I have started to rely heavily on my iPhone in doing business. My job is to update all of D’Flo Productions‘ social media sites, as well as track traffic from the website, promote videos, and host give-aways. Not to mention I need to be available to respond to emails and phone calls and update schedules via iCalendar.

I also use my phone to listen to music and podcasts, read on my kindle, and occasionally watch Netflix. I use it to look up information on IMDB, order from Amazon, text my friends, scroll through my personal social media accounts, set reminders to take my vitamins, track exercise and steps on my Fitbit app, look up recipes, learn how to better use my doterra essential oils, read blog posts, scan coupons on my Walgreens or Starbucks card, and I even use the alarm feature to wake up in the morning.

I know I am not alone in this.

There are probably millions of people who do a lot of important work from their smartphones, as well as use it for more personal or enjoyment purposes.

With this being the case, our smartphones can sort of control our lives if we are not careful. In fact, there are times when I personally feel like I can get lost for hours on end in the tiny world of my iPhone, browsing through different apps, scrolling through Instagram, or checking my email for the 17th time.

I began to work on curbing my iPhone use a while back, even before I started my minimalist journey, and now that I’m committed to minimalism, I realize just how important it is to simplify phone usage and put boundaries on when I use it and for what purpose.

Here are 5 simple tips to help you spend less time on the screen, and more time being present in your real life:

1.) Use the Moment app to track your phone usage. You can use it a few days just to see the average amount of time you spend on your phone, and then you can set a realistic goal for yourself for how much you want to limit. Moment will even remind you to get off your phone if your nearing your allotted time amount, and you can recognize patterns and habits revolving around when and how you use your smart phone. This app can really raise your awareness and help you see what boundaries need to be set in the first place.

2.) Charge your phone at night, but leave it in another room besides your bedroom. If you use your phone as an alarm, invest in a real alarm clock. This will help you go right to sleep instead of scrolling through social media when you should be winding down. Research shows that if you look at the glowing screen of your phone before bed, you are less likely to fall asleep and get quality rest, so if you’re in the habit of reading from your kindle app before bed, try switching to a physical book instead. It will also help you start a productive day rather than laying in bed and spending those precious first moments of your morning mindlessly looking at Facebook before you’re even awake!

3.) Delete time-wasting apps so you are not tempted to play games or scroll through social media posts multiple times a day. Most of these apps can be accessed through websites anyways, so give yourself an allotted time slot to catch up on social media or play an online game, and then just stop. If you don’t have the app on your phone, you’re less likely to go to it when you’re bored or out of habit. You can even disconnect your email if checking it on the go isn’t necessary for your job. This way, the only time you’ll have to check it will be when you are at your computer, and so you won’t be tempted to needlessly check in with email or social media multiple times a day.

4.) Wear a watch and use a real camera. Many people use their phones to look at the time, but after digging it out of their pocket or purse, it’s just too tempting to go on and “quickly” check out what’s going on on on Instagram or log into our email for the 80th time. If you choose to wear a watch instead, you won’t have to be constantly looking at your phone to see what time it is; this way, you won’t have to even touch your phone as much as you would otherwise. And, if you use a real camera for those fun outings with the family or a night on the town with friends, you can be less tempted to post directly to social media and get sucked into being on your phone instead of enjoying time with the people you care about most. Sometimes it’s as simple as limiting the amount of times that picking up the smartphone is necessary.

5.) Use the “Airplane Mode” feature during work hours. For me, I only use this when I’m not posting on social media (since that’s part of my work). But when I’m designing, blogging, or working on a video edit, I turn that phone off or put it on Airplane mode so it has no way of distracting me. Even just a simple text message tone can break my focus, so I often choose to have some separation when I’m needing to be really productive at work.

And there you have it friends, some simple tips to take your life back from your smartphone. Reclaim your time and how you spend it by setting limitations and boundaries. Of course, there are countless other ways you can practice minimalism on your phone, and when it really comes down to it, we simply have to exercise a little self-control, something our society seems to have forgotten how to do.

The most drastic way we can become a minimalist in our phone use is downgrading to a “dumb phone”–one that only makes calls. Yes my friends, we can go back to what the phone was originally made for in the first place and simply make our calls on it.

Most of us remember the “dumb phone”, but soon our children will have never known anything other than smartphones. Let’s be careful what we teach them about the importance and control our phones have over our lives.

What are some ideas you have for setting boundaries on your phone usage? I’ve love to hear some more of your tips and tricks! After all, I’m just a wannabe minimalist, and I need all the help I can get 🙂

 

 

 

Make Over Your Mornings: Before Bed Ritual

close up photography of alarm clock

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Making the most of your mornings starts the night before.  I recently shared this on my facebook page after I had just finalized my morning prep before going to sleep.

First of all, we need to know why it’s important to make the most of our mornings.

In “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast”, Laura Vanderkam explains that mornings kick-start the rest of our day. How we spend our mornings usually set us up for great productivity during our day, or a poor use of time and resources. If we roll out of bed after hitting the snooze button ten times, trudge into the kitchen to find it’s a mess from the night before, and then glance at the clock, realizing we only have 30 minutes before we have to be clocked in at the office…. chances are we are starting the day off hurried, frazzled, and without a clear direction.

But, if we make the most of our mornings, we can use that time to do the things that energize us, invigorate us, and help us have a positive attitude before we begin to interact with the rest of the world.

But before we get into how to make the most of our mornings, we need to realize that it starts before we even wake up.

I suppose I always knew this, but I really started putting into practice when I took Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings e-course last summer. I learned a lot of valuable tools from this 14-day course, but this one lesson was a game-changer.

I began using a “before bed ritual” as a way to mentally envision a productive morning, foreseeing little preparations that could set me up for success when my feet hit the floor in the am.

Here is my Before Bed Ritual that helps me have a successful morning:

Turn off phone. Studies have shown that screen time right before bed can keep you up longer, causing you to sleep in longer than intended when that alarm clock goes off the next morning. For me, this is the case. I actually keep my phone in another room entirely and use a traditional alarm clock near my bed so I am not tempted to surf the web while lying in bed.

Tidy the house, do the dishes, and wipe down counters. It stresses me out to wake up to a mess in the kitchen, and it makes it harder for me to prep my coffee and breakfast when the sink is full of dirty dishes. Having a clean kitchen, and even prepping the coffee before bed helps my mornings go smoothly the next day.

Brush teeth, wash face, and wipe down sink in bathroom. Multitasking is great in this area! While I’m in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I can swish some mouthwash and wipe down the sink/toilet/counter so it’s clean for tomorrow. This helps me maintain a semi-clean bathroom for a majority of the time, even when I don’t deep-clean.

Lay out clothes appropriate for the first task of the morning. Depending on the day, I am doing different things during the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes it’s jumping to work right after my quiet time. Other times is going out for a run or heading to the gym. Depending on my task at hand, I’ll set out nice clothes that will help me get into work mode, outdoor gear if I’m braving the weather outside for a jog, or some gym attire if I’m heading there. I prefer this to just getting up and starting the day in my pajamas. I find I am much more productive if I dress for the occasion, and picking out clothes the night before saves me time and helps me avoid making a decision when I’m not yet fully awake. If you find yourself having issues picking out your clothes even the night before, you wardrobe might be too expansive. Here’s some inspiration to practice minimalism in this area of your life!

Look over or make the next day’s to-do list. Most of the time the list is already written in my planner, but going over it before bed helps me anticipate the next day and get excited to accomplish my goals. Also, I can sleep better because I know when everything will get done; I don’t have to fret about when I’ll have time for such and such. I already know.

If I have time, read before hitting the lights. This is usually something enjoyable; it’s not usually the time for a heady informative book. Just some light reading to relax my brain and get ready for sleep. Here’s the book I’m currently reading: a classic minimalist choice!

The times of all of these little rituals change and shift based on when I need to get up in the morning and what time I get home from work or an evening event. But this is the general order I usually do things in so that I can be set up for a successful morning.

Now it’s your turn! What things do you need to do in order to have a stress-free and productive morning?  

Here are some points and questions to consider:

1.) This is the most important: Make sure to schedule in enough sleep. You can’t have a successful morning if you are falling asleep in your cereal. Personally, I like to get 8 hours of sleep; this doesn’t always happen, but it’s what I shoot for. If you have a fitbit or another activity monitor, you can track the quality your sleep. But over all, you need to go to bed on time.

2.) What stresses you out in the morning? For me, it’s a sink full of dirty dishes or a filthy bathroom mirror. For you it might be your pet’s feeding, or laundry on the bedroom floor. Whatever it is, try to incoorperate getting rid of these stressors before bed so you don’t have to deal with them in the morning.

3.) What can you do before bed so that you can save time in the morning for something more enjoyable? If you hate preparing breakfast, set up the crockpot with apple cinnamon oatmeal the night before, or make a batch of freezable breakfast burritos and take one out to thaw overnight. If things would go smoothly once you knew what you were going to wear, then pick out your clothes ahead of time like I do. You can even do this for the entire week, setting up outfits on hangers in your closet complete with accessories and shoes! I used to do this when I was a teacher and it saved me so much time in the mornings. You can use this time for something more enjoyable, which brings us to out next point of consideration…

4.) Think about what would make you want to get up in the morning.  I start each of my mornings off with a devotional and prayer time with God. I have a chair in my dining room already prepped with my bible, prayer list, and gratitude journal so I can go right to it as soon as I wake up. But what about you? If you love reading, spend some time in the morning reading something you enjoy. If you love running, then hop on the treadmill first thing in the am. If you like to bake, wake up early and bake something yummy for breakfast. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, at least you will have made time for something you love and started out your day on a positive note.

Make preparations so that it is easy to go right to this activity, and get rid of any distractions that might take it’s place. For instance, if you want to spend time reading God’s word in the morning, but the kitchen is a mess, you might be tempted to start right in on cleaning it rather than beginning your day in prayer and study. This change of order might totally change the course of your day and your attitude. Do something that is live-giving first thing, and guard that time! It will make you get up out of that bed and be ready to give your best to the rest of the day! 

What are some of the things you can do before bed to make sure you have an amazing morning? I’d love to hear your ideas and input!